Defining what constitutes Cup contender status isn’t exactly a pure science or mathematical formula. Only two years ago, it was clear the Vancouver Canucks were a serious threat to win the Stanley Cup. A couple of disappointing playoffs later and bingo, it’s harder to categorize them now.
So, why bother defining Vancouver as a legit Stanley Cup contender when their on ice play can do that for us. So far, so good for the team that lost in Game 7 of the Finals in 2011 and won the Presidents’ trophy the following season. In fact, if you forget about the short 48 gamer last year, the Canucks’ recent track record is as impressive as almost any team in the NHL. They have qualified for the playoffs in five straight seasons.
New head coach John Tortorella is proven, as well. He wears a Ring from his days with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He constantly got the most out of his New York Rangers over the last half decade, transforming them into defensive juggernauts, a stigma they haven’t displayed this season without Torts.
Tortorella’s new team is 8-4-1 to begin the year. The Canucks are winning hockey games. It’s not too surprising either. The majority of the core that recently challenged for a championship is still in tact. Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler at centre are better than most NHL teams can throw over the boards all night. Their D is strong, experienced, offensively capable and defensively sound. And of course, Roberto Luongo between the pipes is one of the safest bets in the business.
The Canucks biggest issue this season has been an inability to defeat division rivals the San Jose Sharks. Vancouver was eliminated from the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Sharks, also. Going through San Jose will be a challenge. The Sharks have their number.
Plus, every team in the West should be weary of a playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks. This problem is not unique to the Canucks. Since the beginning of the 2013 regular season last January, the Hawks have only lost 8 games in regulation. They’re the defending Cup champs. Repeating is rare in the NHL, but the Hawks might be able to do it. Their core is young and they play very smart two-way hockey.
At the moment, labelling the Canucks a legit Stanley Cup contender would be premature. That being said, they have the makeup of a Cup contender. They possess a strong goaltender, high-end centres, and a solid top four within their defence corps. And they’ve displayed an early season knack for clutch scoring, which is often the trademark of a Cup winner. Tweet from Matt Sitkoff of NHL.
— Matt Sitkoff (@msitkoffNHL) October 26, 2013